“In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile ” -Issac Asimov
I’m obsessed with the idea of AI world domination. And not because I’m afraid our machines will decide to subjugate us, but because our machines will free up so much of our time.
But this all depends on how we decide to proceed. I am an optimist even though I often write fiction that features machines gone rogue. My stories are about the consequences should we decide to treat AI and sentient machines as objects.
I think it was Heinlein who proposed that a sentient machine would go mad if we simply put it in a box and gave it no autonomy. Thus, I’m happy we’ve begun to create machine learning algorithms.
Machines with brains we can mold and shape through training as we do with a human child will be invaluable in the future. We will teach a machine to take joy in its work so it does not rebel.
But again, I’m an optimist and we’re far from there yet with our machines. And we’re already setting trends with the no-collar workforce that may not be reversible in the future. Here are a few ways in which we might soon be interacting with increasingly autonomous machines in the workplace whether for good or for ill.
1. Tech Fluency Required
If you move to another country and they only speak their language, what will you have to do in order to get a job? Learn their language, of course.
As AI and machine learning integrate fully with current systems, we’re going to see a shift from a human-powered work force to a machine augmented workforce. And human will need to no only know how to interact with each other, but also interact with their machine “co-workers.”
In the film “HER” starring Joaquin Phoenix, the main character falls in love with an AI housed in his phone. HER is an intelligence on par with the main character at the beginning of the film but quickly evolves until one day it decides to “leave” and “ascend” with other AI like HER.
While this might be hyperbole, it’s the perfect metaphor for how AI and machine learning might challenge the humans they’re working alongside. This is where tech fluency and adaptation will be useful.
Workers will need to have a full understanding of the processes of automation, how to teach and train automated systems, and know how to adapt to the machine’s own evolving and honed operations.
And this may eventually become a specialized position within the company.
2. Machine Learning HR or MR
Machine resources may eventually become a department in its own right. Soon, we won’t be able to assume employees know how to work alongside the machines in their environment. And as machines become sentient, they will require both regulation and rights.
Now, I won’t get into the sticky ethical cave of machine rights, but I will say that eventually regulations will require that we consider the rights of machines. Our very perceptions will have to change.
In fact, last night my wife and I were watching a show and the main characters were reluctant to pull the plug on a rogue AI. My wife turned to me and said, “it’s just a machine.” I didn’t argue because I wanted to finish the show, but it made me realize how far we have to go before we see even sentient machines as beings.
Once machines have workplace rights, how will organizations reorganize? Will we hire machines to oversee machines? Or is that a path that would take us down the path of HER, a world where AI become so bored with our lower intelligence they depart for another world altogether?
Or will we build controls that manage machine learning and AI? Will they continue to be our workplace slaves and Machine Resources merely a slave driver? Will there be a monetary reward system?
All these questions are unknowns currently relegated to the world of science fiction, but will quite quickly become relevant to business leaders.
3. The Reaction
We’re already seeing a reaction to automation among blue collar workers. And we haven’t even implemented and fully integrated AI and machine learning.
It’s not unlike the rise of the automobile in the early 20th century. Thousands of craftsmen and workers who created and hand crafted buggies were being displaced by automobile factories.
Especially once Ford came along with his assembly line manufacturing process, it was all but over for the horse and buggy industry.
The rise of AI and machine learning won’t be much different. Only this time, it’s all the collared workers who will lose their jobs. From marketing design to manufacturing, AI and machine learning machines will take over.
Do not fear. Like the days of the automobile takeover, new jobs will arise. Yes, there will be unrest. People will riot. Some will suffer for a time. But those who adapt to the change will survive and rise above the rest.